What was the age of majority in 1900, in the United States? For women and for men?

I am not asking about the age of consent.

The age of majority is the chronological moment when minors cease to legally be considered children and assume control over their persons, actions, and decisions, thereby terminating the legal control and legal responsibilities of their parents or guardian over and for them.

  • 1
    What would you consider acceptable evidence for whatever this age is?
    – Semaphore
    Dec 10, 2014 at 13:16
  • 2
    Do criminal laws in the US distinguish? In India clearly 18 is the age when full criminal law applies and juvenile laws cease to apply.
    – Rajib
    Dec 10, 2014 at 14:19
  • In 1900, in Texas and Missisippi
    – LILOU
    Dec 10, 2014 at 14:21

1 Answer 1


The age of majority is when a youth is considered to be independent of their parents. For example, a minor cannot enter into a legal contract because they are not considered independent persons under the law.

Traditionally the age of majority has always been 21 for males and 18 or 21 for females, depending on the state. A female always gains majority on marrying, thus oddly you could have a situation where the husband is older than his wife, yet is a minor, but his wife is an adult.

The shift from 21 to 18 as the age of majority happened around 1970. For example, in Massachusetts it occurred in 1974.

In 1900 voting age was 21 in nearly all states.


The several United States generally followed the practice established under English Common Law of setting the age of majority at 21. To quote:

By the common law the age of majority is fixed at twenty-one years for both sexes, and, in the absence of any statute to the contrary, every person under that age, whether male or female, is an infant.

-- The American and English Encyclopedia of Law, Garland and McGeehee, 1900

The same source notes that by statute 17 states had the female age of majority set at 18. Those states were:

Arkansas, California, Colorado, Dakota, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

Note that under ancient Saxon law the "age of discretion" was 14 for a male and 12 for a female and this prevailed for a long time in English Common Law, but this is only the age at which they may marry and become liable to committing felonies. Under English Common Law, to enter into a contract and be recognized fully as an adult you must be 21 and this was always the case. Here is a quote:

By the common law, every person is, technically, an infant, until he is twenty-one years old; and, in legal presumption, is not of sufficient discretion to contract an obligation at an earlier age.

The ultimate source which is authoritative is Institutes of the Lawes of England by Coke (1628-1644). The laws on infants are at 171b.

  • And in texas, the age of majority in 1900 was 18 ou 21 for women ?
    – LILOU
    Dec 10, 2014 at 19:29
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    What utter hogwash! The age at which a person can enter into a legally binding contract, without the consent of parents or guardian, has traditionally varied from 14 to 16 in Western European cultures. Only very specific rights, such as voting and purchasing alcohol, was later restricted until an age between 18 and of 21: jstor.org/discover/10.2307/… and conservapedia.com/Age_of_majority Dec 11, 2014 at 4:24
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    @LILOU The age of majority for women in Texas was 21 from its inception as a state, according to statute. The case precedent is Means vs. Robinsonn, 7 Texas 502. Dec 11, 2014 at 11:05
  • 3
    @PieterGeerkens You are confusing the age of discretion with the age of majority. I have updated my answer and linked Cokes on Littleton (the absolute authoritative source for English Common Law) in my answer. Read 171b in Co. Lit. Dec 11, 2014 at 11:44
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    @PieterGeerkens Also, did you actually read that JSTOR article you linked (do you have a JSTOR account)? If you had actually read the whole article, you would know that in English law the age of majority was 21 since the "time of the magna carta" according to the article. Dec 11, 2014 at 12:28

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